Kyoto Sushi Garden
If you’re after avant-garde sushi restaurants in Cape Town, we recommend you pay a visit to Kyoto Sushi Garden. Ultra-Zen. Impeccably understated. Small. Hushed. There’s much here that contributes to the sense that the place is trying to remain anonymous, and steer well clear of the beaten track. From the outside-crammed into one of Cape Town’s busiest corner intersections, right at the start of Kloof Nek’s inevitable summertime bottleneck leading towards Camps Bay and the cableway, this looks to be a design store of sorts, or perhaps a disappearing act. Inside, things are streamlined and tiny, with Sino-classical music desperately trying to be heard the design is elegant and bears a strong resemblance to what your imagination might tell you a genuine Japanese restaurant should look and feel like, yet there’s a distinctly personal, homegrown look to the place. There’s the beechwood on beige colour scheme, freestanding bamboo poles, rice paper screens, a serene Buddha watching over the good-looking private dining room, and backlit boxes framing ultra-dainty bonsais. But it’s the bottles of Suntory whisky, and cans of Asahi, Sapporo and Kirin which key you in on the overwhelming obsession with all thing Japanese-which brings you to the tiny kitchen, presided over by a suitably serious Japanese wizard who not only turns out a brilliant selection of sushi-which extends to flying fish eggs and sea urchin-but prepares some authentic hot dishes that you won’t find elsewhere in the city, such as sake steamed crabs, and scallop with octopus and fresh wasabi. The wasabi, incidentally, is the real deal freshly grated root flown in from Japan. A scan of the cocktail menu, too, lets you know you’re in for a treat-try a dirty ninja sakatini, or a dangerous sounding Shinkansen (or “bullet train”) made with Japanese whisky and Red Bull. The menu is compact, but filled with authenticity; the only drawback, in fact, might be the over-attentive owner, an American import named Scott who likes to share unsolicited accounts of his latest visit to Japan with diners. Given the quality of the food, though, you can probably forgive the well-meaning intrusion.